When you first listen to a song, it's not always immediately clear what the song is about. While there are plenty of songs with secretly dark meanings, those meanings can escape even the most astute listener. Songs about suicide are usually even harder to place. These songs appear in all genres, from country and rap to metal and punk, and they're so unexpected. Few would've guessed that Van Halen's catchy "Jump" is about a man encouraging someone to jump to their death off of a high building. Even fewer people would guess that "Waltzing Matilda" is really about a sheep thief who kills himself to avoid arrest.Sometimes music fans fail to notice a song's meaning because the backstory isn't clear from the lyrics. Other times, the song is so upbeat that the lyrics produce cognitive dissonance. Sometimes, you've heard a song so many times that it becomes easy to gloss over the dark lyrics.
Keep reading to find out what other secret suicide songs are out there and take note of the truly surprising ones.
If the title didn't make it clear enough, though, this list discusses suicide so please use your best judgment when deciding whether or not to keep reading.
Most people who don't know the story behind Van Halen's "Jump" think of it as an invitation to take a risk. With its bouncy synth line and seemingly encouraging lyrics, the song certainly doesn't seem like it would have anything to do with death.
David Lee Roth has stated, however, that the song is about self-inflicted fatality. He got the idea for the song while watching a man on the news threaten to commit suicide. Roth believed that there was at least one onlooker in the crowd telling the man to "go ahead and jump."
While R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" is undeniably a song about depression and difficult life circumstances, some people might have focused more on the general feelings of melancholy and less on the specific subject of suicide. Unlike many of the songs on this list, "Everybody Hurts" is actually aimed at a suicidal listener, telling them that:
When your day is long
And the night
The night is yours alone
When you're sure you've had enough
Of this life
Well hang on
Don't let yourself go
'Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes
The song was actually used in a press release to promote British crisis hotline The Samaritans, which was being underutilized by young men with suicidal urges.
#29 on The Best 90s Music Videos
Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" is about a student who lashes out and attacks his classmates after being bullied in school and ignored by his parents. In the song, Jeremy bites a staff member and punches a classmate but the largest emphasis is placed on the fact that he finally did something; he finally "spoke in class today."
You can't tell from the lyrics but the song is based on two real events, one of which is the suicide of 16-year-old Jeremy Delle who shot himself in front of his English teacher and 30 classmates in 1991.
The song also draws inspiration from band member Eddie Vedder's middle school classmate who shot up an Oceanography classroom.
Despite its upbeat pop tone, My Chemical Romance's "Headfirst for Halos" is also about suicide. Particularly dire lyrics are present in every part of the song:
And I think I'll blow my brains against the ceiling
And as the fragments of my skull begin to fall
Fall on your tongue like pixie dust just think happy thoughts
There aren't many optimistic interpretations for this number but listeners are understandably distracted by the catchy riffs.